Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, or Nellie Bly as she came to be known, was born in Cochran’s Mill, PA on May 5, 1864. Her paternal grandmother Catherine was one of Warren’s earliest settlers. Her father Michael Cochran was a judge for Armstrong County and had moved the family to a large mansion (still standing today) on Terrace Avenue in Apollo in 1869 when Elizabeth was about 5. He passed away within a year of the move. Judge Cochran died without a will so the house on Terrace Avenue was sold and Elizabeth with her mother and other siblings moved to a near-by house at 511 N. 6th Street (which is also still standing today).
Elizabeth went for one semester to the Indiana Normal School, but was forced to drop out due to lack of funds. She and her family moved to Pittsburgh, where she responded to an editorial in The Pittsburgh Dispatch. The editor was so impressed with her writing that he hired her with the pen name of Nellie Bly.
Nellie wrote feature articles dealing divorce and slum life. She became known as an investigative reporter. After joining the New York World, she feigned insanity to get into the insane asylum on Blackstone Island and wrote an expose that brought about much need reforms. She interviewed many of the great national personalities of her day, including Civil War veteran Colonel William Sirwell of Kittanning, PA.
In 1889, in an attempt to beat the fictional record in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, Nellie circled the globe in 72 days, six hours, traveling by boat, train, and rickshaw. The much publicized trip made her byname a celebrated synonym for a female star reporter. Nellie went on to cover World War I as a reporter in Europe.
Returning to New York, she died on January 27, 1922.